- Performer: Nikolai Lugansky, Lyn Fletcher, Dara De Cogan, Tim Pooley
- Orchestra: Hallé Orchestra
- Conductor: Kent Nagano
- Composer: Benjamin Britten
- Audio CD (14 Jun. 1999)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Erato
- ASIN: B00000JXPP
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 381,627 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ £1.26 UK delivery
+ £1.26 UK delivery
+ £1.26 UK delivery
Britten: Double Concerto
The young Benjamin Britten was profligate with scores--three of these pieces are unheard since his student days, yet hardly inferior to works of his maturity. The 1939 Young Apollo, his seven-minute fanfare for piano, string quartet and strings, is marginally the least obscure piece here: its inventive drive and vigour are clearly Britten and yet, like the other pieces here, in some sense the radical road not taken. The Double Concerto of 1932 for Violin and Viola announces itself with broody discords and moves rapidly into eloquent fiddling from the two soloists--Kremer and Bashmet respond well to this music and give it its full and considerable weight. The 1930 Portraits for string orchestra, the second featuring Bashmet again as soloist in a moody self-portrait, foreshadow much of what Britten was to do later with string orchestra. Nagano deserves congratulations for selecting this innovative programme and for the restraint needed in performing work so delicate and inventive; he finally breaks out into virtuosity in the finale of the small orchestra version of the Sinfonietta, making a case for its being quite as fine as the chamber version Britten acknowledged as his op.1. --Roz Kaveney
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My favorite is a work I had never heard before this recording, "Young Apollo" for piano and strings. About seven minutes long, it is ripe with gorgeous harmonies, catchy rhythms, and its sunny spirit is just beautifully handled by Nagano and the orchestra. Needless to say, it makes a fine, attention-getting start to the recording.
The rest of the CD is terrific, ending with an impressively virtuosic performance of the "Sinfonietta," in its version for small orchestra. Erato's sound quality is lovely -- very warm and natural -- only adding to the pleasure.
This disc has two world premieres: the Double Concerto and Two Portraits. Two Portraits is the earliest work recorded here, from 1930, and was composed just after Britten entered the Royal College of Music. The portraits are of one of the composer's school friends and Britten himself. A third movement was contemplated but never written. The work is scored for string orchestra and is quite mature for a teenage composer. The Double Concerto was written in 1932 in conjunction with the Sinfonietta but was not fully orchestrated; it was possible to fully realize the score from Britten's detailed notation. The concerto was probably left as it was because of the difficulties Britten experienced with the student orchestra during the first performance of the Sinfonietta. It is an engaging concerto that sounds so typical of the mature Britten; the melodies are engaging and the orchestration confident and original.
The Sinfonietta is Britten's opus 1 and he was determined in the work to make a statement - an effort to say he had arrived. The piece was scored for 10 players but Britten added a second horn and made indications in the score for a full string orchestra, which is the version recorded here. Young Apollo was composed in 1939 on a commission from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and is scored for piano and orchestra. It is a sunny work and a perfect overture.
The performances are superb and well-recorded. It you have an interest in Britten's music you will want this CD.
The Two Portraits is probably the weak link here (if anything is) with a romantically charged first movement (something of Alban Berg but far less adventurous) and a lyrical but slightly inconsequential second movement. The string orchestral version of the Sinfonietta is, however, very effective and imaginative.
But I have a couple of nitpicks about this release as well - the sound quality is a little cavernous and some details are inevitably lost. Otherwise it is mostly a success, with splendid solo playing. The orchestral contributions exhibit energy and spirit but sound a little thin at times, especially in the Sinfonietta which really needs more flair and power and stronger characterization. Still, this disc deserves a firm recommendation, regardless of the caveats.